Tuesday, December 19, 2017

AS&SH: The Manse of Korrhil Xai

I'm behind on campaign updates.  We've had three more sessions of AS&SH, playing weekly on Mondays, although I had to cancel one session due to travelling.

The Party

The party is unchanged.  No one has died, leveled up, or acquired any hirelings/henchmen yet.

Badulf: Kimmerian Shaman, follower of Krimmer, level 1.
Ingolf: Viking Death Soldier, level 1.
Hogsalt: Kelt Berserker, follower of Yoon'Deh, level 1.
Sheela: Amazonian Ranger, follower of Artemis, level 1.

The Adventure

Following their last adventure, the party spent a few days relaxing and celebrating in Swampgate.  They were soon contacted by the mayor, Connar Nill, who they'd sold their treasure to earlier.  He explained the difficult situation in Swampgate and why he needed people with an aptitude for sneaking into difficult places.  The town was being pressed by Khromarium to deliver an ever increasing supply of peat, but payments were stagnant.  The region's trade minister, Korrhil Xai, was responsible for setting the price of such commodities.  Korrhil had a manse outside the town of Pella's Wish, two day's south of Swampgate.  The adventurers were hired to sneak into the manse and impress upon the minister the wisdom of conducting fair trade.  They were also asked to gather any useful information that Connar might use for leverage, but to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed.

On the road south to Pella's Wish, they encountered another adventuring party being overrun by a large group of half formed dwarves - Worms of Ymir.  The adventurers rushed in to help.  Sheela took a high ground position and set arrows, proceeding to rain hell on the Worms.  Hogsalt rushed straight into their midst, wreaking carnage in his enraged blood mist.  Ingolf noted the stream the creatures were crossing to engage the strangers, and cast his Shocking Graps to send electrical currents across it.  One of the strangers, a half-blood Pictish woman, nearly fell in the melee, but Badulf was able to provide her healing.  After the fight, the strangers introduced themselves as the Hounds of Lug, a group of treasure hunters on their way to Swampgate.  They were thankful for the intervention and swore to raise their drinks together at the Swampgate Inn the next time the adventurers were in town.

When they reached Pella's Wish, the party spent some time reconnoitering the manse.  They learned that Korrhil Xai had once been a fair and generous man, but after the death of his wife to the plague, he'd become increasingly reclusive and cruel.  He kept a squadron of guards and trained wolves patrolling his grounds, but other servants had seemingly vanished and he no longer attended any functions in the village.  His only guests were dark cowled strangers that visited the manse on nights of ill omen, when Phobos was dark in the sky and shadows blocked out the stars.  The manse itself they found to sit alone on a barren hill, surrounded by a 10' stone wall.  The manse was near the back of the complex and had a servant's door, which no one was seen to use recently.  The front grounds had a few smaller structures, presumably guard barracks, kennels, and tool shed.

At night, the party crept up the rear of the hill to the servant's door.  Hogsalt climbed the stone wall and, seeing no patrol moving behind the manse, dropped inside and opened the servant's door to allow the party in.  The rear rooms of the manse appeared unlit and they began to study the back door for entry when they saw the light of a lantern approaching around the back corner.  With Sheela's guidance, they hid and lay in ambush, and when the guard came round the corner, Ingolf cut his throat before he could raise alarm.  On him they found a key to the manse and were able to slip inside quietly.

Once inside, they moved through kitchen and dining areas, searching for Korrhil's quarters.  Doing their best to stay hidden, they could hear a guard patrolling the manse and ducked into adjacent rooms at his approach.  As they moved down a dark hall, they heard a distant scream from behind a door.  Checking the door, they discovered stone steps descending into a cellar below.  They quickly rushed down the steps into a newly constructed dungeon.  A pair of cells were empty but showed evidence of recent use.  A large set of double doors stood at the opposite end.  The screaming was clear behind it, and the flickering light of a fire shone around the edges.

Kicking open the door, the adventurers saw a gruesome sight.  Raised on a dais stood Korrhil Xai next to a stone table on which lie a half mummified woman's corpse, in disturbingly varied state of decay.  At the foot of the dais a man was chained and bleeding, evidently having suffered much torture.  Around the room stood four dark cowled figures, one holding an ornamental dagger, another a silver chalice.  These men were so stunned by the interruption that the adventurers cut them all down before they could act, leaving Korrhil Xai in mute dismay.

The party bound Korrhil to the table along with his spouse's corpse, and set a swamp beetle on his skin which began to feed.  They quickly explained the importance of just economics to the bewildered minister, then left him there and unchained the captive.  Parsai, the man called himself, was the last remaining servant of the Xai family.  One by one they'd all been ritually sacrificed in an attempt to resurrect his deceased wife.

On the dead cultists, they recovered the ornamental dagger and silver chalice, as well as a pair of scrolls.  Parsai led them to Korrhil's chambers and office, where they found some gold and a trade ledger.  At this point they heard Korrhil screaming from the dungeon and remembered they'd forgotten to gag him.  The guard they'd previously heard patrolling the house sounded the alarm - the sound of the barracks rousing and the howling of wolves warned them it was time to flee.  They made there way back to the servant's door but were intercepted by a pair of wolves, which they were able to cut down just before the pursuing guards caught them.  From here, they rushed into the darkness of the bogs, and with Sheela's wilderness guidance were able to lose their pursuers before long.

The journey back to Swampgate was tiring.  They rested very little in the bogs, and did their best to avoid any encounters.  They hid from a swarm of stirges that buzzed over the tepid waters, and refrained from pursuing any hunts that would take them further into the swamps.  On the second day, while wading across a stream, Hogsalt was attacked suddenly by a giant swamp eel.  The creature struck from surprise and nearly tore him apart instantly.  The pain enraged him, however, and in a few blows Hogsalt cut open the length of the eel.  His companions looked on from the banks of the stream as he bathed in the bloody waters and cut out the eyes of the creature.

Outside of Swampgate, they encountered a patrol of rangers who escorted them back to the village.  A the inn, the drank heavily with the recovering members of the Hounds of Lug.  The mayor rewarded them well for their success, which Parsai was able to corroborate.  He gave a bonus for bringing a member of Xai's household and for the ledger they'd recovered.  They sold their other treasures, Sheela bought a pair of war dogs and barding off the falconer, and they began making their next plans.  Ingolf wished to meet the Black-Moss Hag he'd heard about.  Soon they'd need to set out into the bogs again.

XP Total: 2768 (692 each)
Gold Total: 2255 (563 gp, 7 sp, 5 cp each)


AS&SH continues to be a very fun system for our group.  A stealthy, breaking and entering style mission is not the norm for our group, so the manse quest was kind of fun for something different.  AS&SH's simple skill resolution system handled it very easily.  Hiding, climbing walls, ambushing patrols, listening for danger, all is resolved quickly and satisfactorily.

Combat is also flowing very nicely.  The roadside encounter involved the 4 PCs, an NPC adventuring party of 4, acting as their own initiative group, and 12 Worms of Ymir.  Spell casters in both the PC and NPC adventuring groups, and a few terrain obstacles to account for.  That's a fairly complex encounter in most games, but AS&SH handled it easily.  The combat was very fluid and only took about 20 minutes.  I've come to really like the 2 phase combat round as it keeps everyone engaged more frequently, where in a lot of games players can check out a bit in between their turns.

Everyone is really enjoying their characters and beginning to form personal goals in the setting, which really speaks to how vivid Hyperborea is to play in.  With a mixed party, their goals are somewhat tugging in different directions, so it will be interesting where they decide to go.  After the manse mission, I'm trying to move away from handing out quests and just feed lots rumors of things they might be interested in so that they can make their own plans of what they want to accomplish.

Lastly, I've really been digging into Blackadder's AS&SH Encounter Tables.  I really love the work he's done on this.  Aside from all the beasts and monsters to encounter, there's interesting tidbits in the encounters with men to give extra inspiration, and the celestial and natural encounters are fantastic for developing the feel of Hyperborea as a weird and hostile land.  I'm eager for my players to strike out from Swampgate a bit more, as these encounter tables can fuel a lot of adventure.

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